The Mohawk Trail (New England’s first official “scenic tourist route”) has had millions of drivers tool along its 60-mile stretch into the Berkshires since its opening in 1914.
While Smuggler’s Notch, the Acadia Loop Road, the Mohawk Trail, and the Kancamagus Highway may be the most popular foliage drives in New England thanks to their scenic beauty and classic New England charm, they aren’t the only way to experience the splendor of autumn. With 32 million acres of forest, there are countless alternative routes that still feature road trip essentials like stately maples, classic steepled meetinghouses, stone walls, and old cemeteries. Want to experience a fall drive without the crowds? Here are four “quiet” foliage drives in New England that won’t disappoint.
4 Favorite Quiet Fall Foliage Drives in New England
Vermont Fall Foliage Drives
Popular Route: Smuggler’s Notch
This narrow winding road over a mountain pass northwest of Stowe provides countless recreational opportunities and stunning views.
Quiet Route: Route 58 from Lake Willoughby to Hazen’s Notch
Sitting between the steep walls of two mountains, Lake Willoughby is a stunning start to this trip through some of Vermont’s earliest fall foliage. The route winds through beautiful villages with plenty of mountain views. It even briefly turns to dirt near the village of Lowell, a testament to its under-the-radar status.
New Hampshire Fall Foliage Drives
Popular Route: The Kancamagus Highway
Prized for its wilderness views, the Kanc is one of the most popular scenic drives in all of New England.
Quiet Route: Evans Notch (Route 113)
Beginning and ending in Maine, this route along the New Hampshire border is steep, winding, and spectacular. Maple, birch, and beech trees growing close to the road create a true tunnel of foliage until you reach the views at the height of the route. Trailheads lead to spectacular waterfalls and high mountain vistas. And Basin Pond is one of the true gems in the White Mountains.
Maine Fall Foliage Drives
Popular Route: The Acadia Loop Road
The Acadia Loop Road offers both mountain and ocean views along Maine’s rocky coast.
Quiet Route: The Camden Hills Loop
Camden isn’t terribly far from Bar Harbor as the crow flies, but as they say in Maine: “You can’t get there from here.” And saving the extra two-hour trip north from southern New England to Acadia does mean sacrificing some of the wildness; still, there are plenty of similar scenes here: from mountains that meet the sea to lakes lined with amazing autumn foliage, all near a fine coastal village.
Massachusetts Fall Foliage Drives
Popular Route: The Mohawk Trail
Quiet Route: Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway (Route 20) Loops
Route 20 is the longest highway in the United States, and the trip through Becket, Massachusetts, brings you over its highest point east of the Mississippi. Taking a loop off the highway by the Berkshires brings you past lovely pastoral scenes and mountain views. We recommend Route 8 and the Skyline Trail for a reasonable detour off the main route.
Though a brilliant backdrop of autumn leaves can be found almost anywhere in New England, there are many ways and places to view the foliage display. The popular routes are tried and true, while the back roads offer surprises and adventure.
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.
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